Simon Carr:

The Sketch: It didn't matter what they said – no one was listening

Share
Related Topics

The blue and yellow livery of your tractors," Nick Clegg said, pausing for comic timing, "is tailor-made for the political, er, situation." It was a joke. It relied for its effect on the company colour scheme. This consists of a Conservative blue background on which lettering is rendered in yellow, a colour favoured by the Liberal Democrats. The DPM was making a link with his audience. He was getting in touch with them by comparing their mutual colour schemes.

There was no laughter from the rows of drivers. There was no anything. It was reactionless. Perhaps one man's expression deepened from casual to active indifference – but I may be over-interpreting.

What were they doing here, the Prime Minister and his deputy, talking to a circle of heavily muscled working men in T-shirts? Men in black, the politicians were from different worlds, there's no denying it.

Our heroes had come to Basildon because it isn't Sunningdale, or Ascot, or the Rose Garden at Downing Street. East Essex is an in-touch sort of place. They had come to this factory to be in touch with working people. Not just to say, "We get it, OK?" But to say, "Actually, we really, really get the elusive 'it' that people talk about, yes, and with a cherry on top!"

So, they talked about the things they were "hugely proud of", and about life chances, and focus, and delivery, and monetary policy, and governing for the whole country and, as they did, they sometimes got a drum roll. That is, a drum was rolled across the factory floor. Chains clattered. Metal clashed. How in touch was that? It wasn't just the optics of the venue, the audio was authentically anchored in the sweat-based community.

The occasion had all the attributes of the modern politician's fightback. A clever location, well-dressed set, authentic casting using non-actors, and a complete failure from beginning to end.

As in dud films, the script was the problem. "The Olympics, we haven't woken up to it – it's unbelievably exciting!" In that audience they might as well have been clapping their hands and skipping round the hall in blue-checked dresses.

Everything we'd heard before we really didn't want to hear again. And the things we hadn't heard before should never have been said at all. Asked about the price of diesel, one of them said: "The world diversifying its fuel supplies will have a good effect for people using tractors."

It's a class problem. A failure of manners. No one who had any regard for the people around them would talk to them like this. Ed Miliband had said earlier in the day that politics was in crisis because people no longer believed politicians. That may be true. But judging from Basildon yesterday I'd be very surprised if anyone's even listening.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
Forty per cent of global trades in euros are cleared through London  

The success enjoyed by the City of London owes nothing to the EU

Nigel Farage
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting